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RSS on the rocks

Google Reader’s Last Call: You Don’t Have to Stop Reading RSS Feeds, But You Can’t Read Them There

This is it — we’ve had three months to process our disbelief and denial, to grieve and prepare, and today Google Reader is officially shutting down.

Of course, that doesn’t mean your days of subscribing to, organizing, and reading your favorite RSS feeds have to be over. Google Reader users have been flocking to a variety of alternatives since March, and bloggers and tech journalists have been weighing the pros and cons of each of the major contenders.

See these assessments from Wired, TechCrunch, and Lifehacker, and for an especially great breakdown complete with ratings in three categories — features, usability, and importing — check out this series from Dr. Pete at the Moz Blog.

Of course, if you’ve waited this long to make the switch and import (or at the very least backup) your feeds you unfortunately don’t have much time to deliberate — tomorrow is your last chance.

If you haven’t already, the very first thing you should do is download a copy of your data. Many of the alternative RSS readers make transferring your information quick and easy, but considering some of them have limitations and/or are still working out kinks, it’s a good idea to be better safe than sorry.

You can create a .zip file archive of your data by following these simple steps:

  1. Go to Google Takeout
  2. Select “Choose services”
  3. Choose Google Reader
  4. Click on “Create Archive”

Once you have your file that takes a bit of the heat off your decision. Plus you won’t be putting all your eggs in one basket (you never know).

Your Google Reader Replacement: The Top 3 Contenders

1) Feedly

Feedly was one of the quickest alternative solutions to capitalize on Google Reader’s shutdown. The company wasted no time in making it easy for new users to create accounts with a “one-lick Google Reader Import” option. As a result the company added 500,000 users in the first 48 hours after Google’s announcement and has since tacked on over 8 million.

Google Reader Alternatives: Feedly

Feedly’s easy integration and usability makes it the front-runner at the top of many people’s lists.

2) Digg Reader

Betaworks arrived relatively late to the party with Digg Reader — was just publicly launched on Friday — and the consensus seems to be that the upside is more in the product’s potential rather than the current offering. While it’s missing some features (such as search) and still going through fixes, what’s exciting about Digg Reader is the promise that it will also allow users to see what’s popular with other users in their network and view feeds ranked accordingly.

Google Reader Alternatives: Digg Reader

While it may not be the best immediate option, Digg Reader is certainly worth keeping an eye on.

3) The Old Reader

For those out there who (like me) actually preferred the no-frills simplicity of Google Reader’s text-heavy design this option may be the one for you. As the name implies, The Old Reader is all about getting back to the basics of what the original had to offer, plus some nice sharing featuers. The one downside that is mentioned fairly regularly is a lag in refresh speed.

Google Reader Alternatives: The Old Reader

Life After RSS?

Of course, there are plenty of folks who either gave up on RSS feeds a long time ago or get by without them just fine and see Google’s decision to shutter Google Reader as simply an acknowledgement that the Internet has moved on. That’s Darrell Etherington’s argument in his post for TechCrunch, “You Can’t Quit, Google Reader, Because I Already Fired You”.

Be More Active on Twitter and Google+

For Etherington, Google Reader simply couldn’t keep up with the faster, more comprehensive updates he felt he was getting from the people he followed on Twitter. He discovered he was “finding fewer and fewer articles that I hadn’t already seen, or grasped the content of from Twitter posts and interactions.”

While I do see his point regarding content discovery I still personally find RSS feeds to be a convenient, reliable way to stay updated and scan articles from a wide variety of sites. Following the right people on Twitter and Google+ can have similar effect, but you can also find yourself sifting through a lot of updates for the gems you’re really after.

The bottom line is that for those of us who utilized Google Reader heavily come Tuesday we’re going to have to start making do with different tools that for the time being are adequate, but that will leave us wanting. As Sarah Perez puts it in the closing to her TechCrunch article, “For anyone looking for a Google Reader replacement, the saddest news of all is that there really isn’t one yet. There are only alternatives.”

What RSS reader are you switching over to? Or are you giving up on RSS altogether?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jonathan Crowe is the Managing Editor for the OpenView Labs and Blog. He focuses on executing OpenView’s content marketing strategy, developing and publishing the best content possible to help expansion-stage technology companies grow and succeed.